Synopses & Reviews
As recently as 11,000 years agoand#151;"near time" to geologistsand#151;mammoths, mastodons, gomphotheres, ground sloths, giant armadillos, native camels and horses, the dire wolf, and many other large mammals roamed North America. In what has become one of science's greatest riddles, these large animals vanished in North and South America around the time humans arrived at the end of the last great ice age. Part paleontological adventure and part memoir, Twilight of the Mammoths
presents in detail internationally renowned paleoecologist Paul Martin's widely discussed and debated "overkill" hypothesis to explain these mysterious megafauna extinctions. Taking us from Rampart Cave in the Grand Canyon, where he finds himself "chest deep in sloth dung," to other important fossil sites in Arizona and Chile, Martin's engaging book, written for a wide audience, uncovers our rich evolutionary legacy and shows why he has come to believe that the earliest Americans literally hunted these animals to death.
As he discusses the discoveries that brought him to this hypothesis, Martin relates many colorful stories and gives a rich overview of the field of paleontology as well as his own fascinating career. He explores the ramifications of the overkill hypothesis for similar extinctions worldwide and examines other explanations for the extinctions, including climate change. Martin's visionary thinking about our missing megafauna offers inspiration and a challenge for today's conservation efforts as he speculates on what we might do to remedy this situationand#151;both in our thinking about what is "natural" and in the natural world itself.
"Paul S. Martin's innovative ideas on late quaternary extinctions and wildlife restoration have fueled one of science's most stimulating recent debates. He expounds them vividly here, and defends them eloquently. A must-read."and#151;David Rains Wallace, author of Beasts of Eden
"This is a marvelous read, by a giant in American prehistory, about one of the greatest mysteries in the earth sciences."and#151;Tim Flannery, author of The Eternal Frontier
"Whether or not you agree with Paul Martin, he has shaped how we think about our Pleistocene ancestors and their role in transforming this planet."and#151;Ross D. E. MacPhee, Curator of Mammalogy, American Museum of Natural History
About the Author
Paul S. Martin is Emeritus Professor of Geosciences, Desert Laboratory, University of Arizona.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
1 Discovering the Last Lost World
Radiocarbon Dating and Quaternary Extinctions
2 Overview of Overkill
3 Ground Sloth Dung and Packrat Middens
Giant Meat-Eating Bats?
4 Ground Sloths at Home
Cryptozoology, Ground Sloths, and Mapinguari National Park
5 Grand Canyon Suite: Mountain Goats, Condors, Equids, and Mammoths
6 Deadly Syncopation
7 Digging for the First People in America: High Stakes at Tule Springs
Tricks, Hoaxes, and Bad Science
8 Kill Sites, Sacred Sites
9 Models in Collision: Climatic Change versus Overkill
Unexpected Ramifications of Ecological Change
11 Resurrection: The Past Is Future